NFL

The Ravens Can Thank Ozzie Newsome for Their Best Draft Class Ever

The Ravens have two Super Bowl rings in only 25 seasons as a team. While they maintained ties to their prior Cleveland Browns team, Ozzie Newsome and Art Modell largely had to build the Ravens from the ground up — and everything began with the 1996 draft. Baltimore’s first two picks that year got Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, two all-time Baltimore greats.

How the Ravens dominated the draft

Matt Stover, Ray Lewis, and Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens in 2003
The Ravens’ Matt Stover, Ray Lewis, and Jonathan Ogden in 2003 | Kirby Lee/Getty Images

In 1996, the Ravens used two picks in the first round. Ogden fell to fourth overall behind Keyshawn Johnson, Kevin Hardy, and Simeon Rice. Three great players for certain, but Ogden is the only one who’s made it to Canton.

Exactly 22 picks later, reports the Baltimore Beatdown, the Ravens took the face of the franchise, Ray Lewis. It’s certainly easy to look back now and see why these two Hall of Fame players were great even as rookies. But it took Newsome’s football-genius brain to pick them up in the draft.

Baltimore’s secret to success

Until the Lamar Jackson era, the Ravens were never a team that dazzled the league with high-powered players or individual superstars.

Their first Super Bowl appearance featured Trent Dilfer with one of the most workmanlike Super Bowl performances ever (12 completions on 25 passes and one touchdown but no interceptions). The Giants sacked Dilfer three times but he never turned over the ball. Despite his mediocre-to-bad stat line, the team managed one of the biggest Super Bowl blowouts ever.

In 2001, the Ravens won a Super Bowl on the strength of their defense and special teams, but they did it again with their offense in 2013. Joe Flacco hasn’t always been a picture of consistency but he showed up big to defeat the 49ers in Super Bowl XXXV.

Flacco and Kaepernick both made lists of the best QBs in the league at the time, but neither was a top-10 play-caller. Helping Flacco put up an all-time great Super Bowl performance will always have a spot on Newsome’s trophy shelf.

Lamar Jackson and the future of Baltimore

Throughout their short history, the Ravens have shown they can contend with the cards they’re dealt. With the exception of the Texans, Baltimore is the NFL’s youngest team. And just like the Texans, the Ravens are experiencing a resurgence behind a dynamic quarterback. Unlike Houston, Baltimore already has a pair of Lombardi Trophies.

Although Newsome officially stepped down in 2018, his legacy with the Ravens is set in stone. He even made himself instrumental in acquiring Lamar Jackson. The QB turns heads every week he plays but he hasn’t fully broken out yet.

Fans watch players like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson make massive plays just like Jackson does but one thing is for sure. Whatever trajectories these young quarterbacks’ careers take, we’re in a golden age for young barrier-breaking QBs. The Ravens can thank Newsome for being a part of it.

What to expect from next year’s Ravens

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The 2019 season ended on a sour note for Baltimore. A career-defining performance from Derrick Henry led to an early exit for the Ravens. But fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

With a potential Hall of Fame quarterback under center and enough cap space to get the pieces they need, Baltimore will be a contender in the AFC for the next decade.

Fun fact: The Ravens are the only team to go undefeated in the Super Bowl. The next time they get there, 2-0 could be 3-0, and Ozzie Newsome will undoubtedly be watching proudly.